Executive networking, or business networking, is a great way to make connections in your industry, gain resources and information, and ultimately grow your business. The goal of networking with other executives in your industry is to help each other become the best you can be. It’s excellent marketing for business-to-business partnerships. It can also be fun, a chance to socialize with people who are passionate about the same things you’re passionate about!
But executive networking can also be exhausting if you feel that you’re not getting anything out of it. The key is to network effectively and form connections that have an impact. Here are a few tips to ensure you get the most out of it:
#1 – Go To Small, Face-to-Face Networking Events
In the post-pandemic world, many conferences, seminars, and other networking events have moved online. This is convenient for a work-from-home world and safer for those who still have some health vulnerabilities. However, if you’re able to, it may be worth it to attend a face-to-face networking event.
Studies have shown that digital conferencing leaves something to be desired when it comes to networking opportunities. There is a human element that is often lost online, and that human element is necessary for forming true connections. 95% of networkers agree that face-to-face engagement tends to be better for lasting business relationships.
Small, face-to-face networking events come out even better, with 97% of respondents saying they preferred in-person networking events of 10 people or fewer. While a large conference can be exciting, the intimacy of a smaller group allows for longer conversations and more meaningful interactions. You are far more likely to remember someone you spoke with across the table at lunch than another business card that was traded with you at a large conference.
#2 – Set Goals and Prepare Beforehand
It may seem silly to imagine yourself practicing conversations in the mirror before a networking event, and you don’t necessarily have to go that far. However, you should set some networking goals and prepare yourself for what you might talk about beforehand. If you’re going to a tech event, make sure you’re caught up on all the latest advances. If it’s a publishing event, read up on the latest issues and topics surrounding publishing.
You want to be able to hold a conversation that is relevant to the issues facing those around you. More than that, you want to be able to show that your business has something to offer that no one else is offering. This will take doing some homework before you go to the event.
#3 – Ask About Their Interests
It can be awkward if you simply jump in and begin talking about yourself and your business. It can also feel off-putting and opportunistic to those you’re trying to connect with. Remember that these other executives are also human beings. Ask them about their interests, and talk to them about those interests for some time. Don’t waste anyone’s time, but if you let the conversation be about more than just the opportunity you want to raise, you’re much more likely to find meaningful business connections.
#4 – Connect Over Social Media
Networking is not always done over networking events. You can also find opportunities to connect with other executives or professionals in your industry on social media. LinkedIn is a popular professional-focused social media platform. You may also find Facebook groups dedicated to professionals within certain industries. You can also find discussions about your industry through hashtags on most social media sites. These are free and easy ways to connect with other professionals.
Make sure you respond to posts rather than only posting your own. Just like at a conference, you want to engage the interests of the others around you before you push forward your own.
#5 – Be Authentic
“Be yourself” is a piece of advice that we hear in many areas of life. It’s as true for executive networking as it is for going on a first date. No one wants to feel as though you’re just giving them a line. People respond well to authenticity and transparency. Be clear and authentic about what you do and what you’re looking for, as well as your interests and visions.
Just like a first date, being yourself doesn’t mean pouring everything out at once. Make sure to read the room and respond appropriately. But you don’t have to put on any kind of false persona to make business connections — and if you want those connections to last, you shouldn’t.